We are only one day into the camp to decide who will be on Team USA for the upcoming World Cup, which gives us the perfect opportunity to try to project who the next “Dream Team” will be. I have to use the term “Dream Team” very loosely considering the names who aren’t in camp this time around. Missing are the likes of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Dwight Howard so we don’t exactly have the best-of-the-best that USA has to offer. Even with those names absent, there is still plenty of talent for the USA to take home the Gold if they play their cards right and play as a team.
There are a handful of guys who are locks for the squad because of their pedigree and time spent within the system.
Kevin Durant is one of those players. He has been huge on the international level the last two competitions and will be the backbone of the team. He is a great shooter and a vocal leader. He will be hungry for some hardware after the Thunder failed to reach their lofty expectations the last two seasons.
Paul George is one of the best defenders in the group and a rising star in the NBA. After playing a pair of seasons in the shadow of Danny Granger, George found the spot light in 2012-13 and took full advantage. He was even better a season ago when he put himself into the conversation as one of the best players in the game. George is a lock down defender who can get to the rim. He will be a great compliment playing to the ultra-quick guards that the USA will put on the floor.
Steph Curry is one of the best shooters in the game today and the only lead guard who has the consistent outside touch to play off the ball with such a talented group. Just imagine the kind of lanes will be available with Curry playing the wing next to Durant and clearing up space for the amazing athletes to get to the rim. The international game is won based on good perimeter shooting and Curry clearly addresses that need for the USA.
Even though Derrick Rose has been away from the game for nearly two years with assorted knee injuries there is no way he would be in camp unless he was ready to go. He is as explosive as they get when he gets into the lane and a blur on the break. A back court of Rose and Curry would be something to behold because of the ball handling and passing abilities of both stars.
Anthony Davis is the best shot blocker of the group and an all-around terrific player. After seeing limited action during the 2012 Olympics, look for Davis to make a huge impact on this team. In fact, with a shortage of bigs on the US roster it is almost a must for him to play well if the Americans want to bring home the Gold.
While not necessarily locks, these guys will have to be significantly outplayed to miss a chance to represent their country.
Many people believe James Harden to be a “lock” but his defensive effort this past season has raised some questions. He is one of the best scorers in the world, but showed a serious amount of disinterest on the defensive end as the Rockets fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round on the Western Conference playoffs. He has good size, great touch and the ability to create his own shot or get to the line. If he shows any kind of hustle on the defensive end in camp then he will be on the team and earn plenty of minutes.
Klay Thompson is a top-notch three-and-D guy and will be a huge piece to the USA roster. He already knows how to play well next Curry and is a knock down outside shooter. What may make Thompson even more valuable is his ability to matchup against quick guards who are looking to get to the rim. He has quick feet and is long enough to cause them fits as they try to initiate the offense.
This is where the hard decisions start to come in.
Damian Lillard isn’t afraid of the big stage and should fit right in with Team USA. He would be an excellent option as a backup guard because he has the handle and touch to play either spot. His quickness on the floor in really small lineups can also create some serious match-up problems for opponents.
Kenneth Faried is a beast on the glass and a great finisher around the rim. While he may not be the first choice of all the talented American big men, he will do whatever it takes to win. He is the ultimate worker and makes every team he is on better because he is always pushing. Faried will make this roster and see time on the floor because of his defense and rebounding prowess.
Never did I imagine a day where someone with the demeanor of DeMarcus Cousins would be suiting up with the Red, White and Blue, but thanks to a lack of available bigs, here we are. Cousins is a talented five man who can dominate games when he puts his mind to it. He has shown remarkable skills as a low post scorer during his time with the Kings, but settles for the midrange jumper far too often. His place on this team will be on the block on both ends of the floor.
The last two spots are up for grabs.
It’s hard to picture the USA taking four lead guards, but with the versatility of Curry and Lillard there is room for another point in Kyrie Irving. Irving will need to be on-ball because he really struggles as a spot up shooter. He is at his best with the rock in his hands where he can get to the rim and find open shooters.
The last spot could go any number of ways, but if they decide to go big the only option is Andre Drummond. I can’t foresee that happening though. The option for the last spot that makes the most sense to me is Chandler Parsons. He is long enough to play some time at the four in the international game and has enough quickness to play at the three as well. If he doesn’t shoot the ball well then that may open up the door for either Gordon Hayward or Paul Millsap. Of the two, Millsap is the better option because of his ability to bang on the boards.
That leaves us with a pair of shooters in Bradley Beal and Kyle Korver to go along with DeMar DeRozan and John Wall. Beal has a great stroke, but hasn’t come close to reaching his immense potential just yet. Korver is in camp for one reason, he can shoot. He is the most one-dimensional player of the entire group, but still may make the team if other guys aren’t making shots throughout camp. DeRozan may be the most interesting option because his game isn’t really suited for the international style of play. Wall is a star in the making, but it is hard to see him overcoming all of the dynamic point guards in front of him.
No matter how it shakes out, this will not be your prototypical USA squad thanks to the lack of big name players, but there is enough depth to get the job done.